Baskets, Sculls, Long Lines, Short Lines and Great Lines; what terms do we use when?

There often seems to be confusion as to what these terms mean in relation to fishing and the baskets used. What we know is that there was definitely two types of line fishing. As Linda Fitzpatrick describes in her article, one type was carried out in inshore waters and the other in deep waters often a great distance from shore. They both used baskets to store the lines with hooks they used for fishing. The line fishing in the deeper waters was called great line (or gratlin) fishing and the line, up to 15 miles long was baited by the fishermen while at sea. The baskets used for the lines had a rope around the rim that stored the hooks ready for baiting. The lines for the inshore baskets were shorter and were called small lines (or sma’ lines). These were baited on shore, often by the women, and stored ready baited in baskets.

The confusion comes with the term long line. If there is short line and great line fishing then what is a long line?. This term is certainly used a lot in descriptions with archival photos of line fishing. Well it seems that it is probably a general term that is used for both types of fishing, and indeed even the short lines were pretty long, some being up to a mile in length! Linda Fitzpatrick confirms this by describing short and great line fishing as two techniques of long line fishing that are employed. Because of the confusion I have tried to avoid the use of the term long line when describing specific baskets but it will still be used on some photo captions in the galleries.

So what about sculls? Is this a general term used to refer to all baskets used to store lines for fishing in this way. Does it just refer to the shallow oval frame baskets, used in short line fishing, and sometimes in great line fishing? Or can the term also be used to describe the round stake and strand great line baskets that were also used? It seems that scull is probably a general term used for baskets with a frame style construction as it is also used for potato baskets,(tattie sculls), and also often when referring to the top baskets used by fishwives which were constructed similarly.  On this website we have followed this pattern and tended to use the term line scull only when talking about the oval frame baskets used for line fishing, and not for the stake and strand style round baskets that were also used in great line fishing.

by Julie Gurr

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